Gallery Astra, a new entry in the River North scene that will specialize in fine art from the Baltic region, opens tonight with a group show of work by contemporary Latvian artists. More than 25 established and emerging artists will have their work on display. Future shows will include artists from Lithuania and Estonia. The free opening reception begins at 5 PM at 308 W. Erie. Regular gallery hours are 10 to 5:30 Tuesday through Saturday. Call 664-6880.
If you're still in a Baltic sort of mood after checking out the Latvians, head over to the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture, where Justas Dvarionas, a young Lithuanian piano virtuoso, is making his North American debut. Tonight's repertoire includes works by Dvarionas himself as well as Bach, Brahms, and Lithuanian composer Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis. The show starts at 8 PM at 6500 S. Pulaski. Tickets are $10, $8 for seniors and students. Call 582-6500.
In choreographer Timothy Buckley's new work, Mr. Inbetween, one dancer "finds himself mysteriously trapped onstage" while the others move around freely. The hour-long dance makes up the second annual MoMing Commissions Program, running tonight, tomorrow, and next Friday and Saturday at the MoMing Dance & Arts Center, 1034 W. Barry. Show time is 8 PM; tickets are $10, $8 for seniors and students. Call 472-9894 for reservations and information.
"I'm not an artist," says Lorenzo Rodriguez Jr., organizer of Blue, tonight's one-night-only exhibit at 1840 W. Hubbard. "I'm a facilitator." For this, his fourth exhibit, he followed his usual practice of renting a loft, making the artists whose work he's showing help him clean it out, and letting them hang whatever they want on the walls. Eight local artists contributed to the show; the title was made up at the last minute. The exhibit runs from 6 PM to 3 AM, and there'll be beer and dancing. Admission is free. Details at 342-5156.
Though Dr. John Branion, the prominent African American physician from Hyde Park convicted for his wife's murder, is currently serving a 20- to 30-year prison term, some people, among them filmmaker Michael Niederman, believe Branion is innocent. You can check the evidence out for yourself at the world premiere of Niederman's documentary on the Branion case, Presumed Guilty. Niederman will give a talk after the screening. Show times are 8 and 9:15 PM at Chicago Filmmakers, 1229 W. Belmont. Tickets are $4, $3 for students and seniors, and $2 for CF members. Call 281-8788.
If you and your mom want to raise a little hell today, consider attending the Mother's Day Boycott of Churches at Holy Name Cathedral, 750 N. State. It's organized by Chicago Catholic Women, who'll gather at 10:30 AM in front of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin's home parish to show where they stand on such issues as the ordination of women, equal representation in the church hierarchy, and use of language. You can come shout for free or show your support with a contribution. For more information, call 561-5668.
The winner of the city's Poem for Osaka Award will travel to Osaka, Japan--one of Chicago's sister cities--to read at this summer's International Garden and Greenery Exposition. Tonight the semifinalists will perform their work from 4:30 to 8:30 at B.L.U.E.S. Etcetera, 1124 W. Belmont. Proceeds benefit Neutral Turf, a marathon poetry festival to be held at Navy Pier in June. Admission is $5 and includes the 9 PM performance by Billy Branch and Sons of Blues. Call 276-9202 or 744-8923.
Today through Thursday, the U.S. armed forces bands will perform free concerts every day at noon in the State of Illinois Building, 100 W. Randolph. The Army, Navy, and Air Force bands will play everything from Dixieland to orchestral arrangements. Call 346-0777.
Southern author, poet, and playwright Reynolds Price--past winner of the Faulkner Foundation Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award and a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters--will read from his most recent novel, The Tongues of Angels, at a celebration for the 25th anniversary of TriQuarterly magazine. The reading begins at 6 PM in the theater of the First National Bank, 2 S. Dearborn. A dinner reception follows at 7:30 in the Mid-Day Club on the 56th floor. Tickets are $10 for the reading only, $100 for the reading and dinner, and $150 for both plus membership in Friends of TriQuarterly. Call 708-491-7614.
When Society Becomes an Addict is a self-help book for substance abusers and those who love them. It inspired Theatre Works, which develops and presents what it calls "seed shows" (in which actors and playwrights work together to come up with a play), to produce The Liar's Opera. Show time is 6:30 tonight, tomorrow, Wednesday, and next Tuesday and Wednesday, May 22 and 23, at Second City E.T.C., 1608 N. Wells. Tickets are $5. Call 549-6200.
Ceramic artist Alfredo Trejo Rodriguez will give demonstrations from 10 to 5 today at the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, 1852 W. 19th St. It's part of the "Que Lindo Es Michoacan!": Traditional and Contemporary Art From the State of Michoacan show, which runs through May 27. Regular museum hours are 10 to 5 Tuesday through Sunday. It's free; 738-1503.
Wednesday May 16
Visitors to Wish You Had Been Here . . . Chicago as a Vacation Destiny in 1890 and 1940--the exhibit on where to stay, where to eat, and what sights to see way back then--have an opportunity to contribute to future versions of it. Curator Janice McNeil invites out-of-towners to bring in hotel advertisements, city guidebooks, programs from ball games or concerts--whatever helps tourists move through Chicago. The exhibit, which runs through October 31, can be seen from 9:30 to 4:30 Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 Sunday at the Chicago Historical Society, at the corner of Clark and North. Admission is $1.50, 50 cents for kids and seniors. Mondays are free. Call 642-4600.
Photographer Sally Mann's images of her three kids at play, after accidents, or posing nude are explicit and disturbing. Her point is that childhood is not always carefree. "Many of [the photographs] were made in an effort to resolve that inevitable ambivalence that many parents feel about their children," she says. An exhibit of her work will be up through June 23 at the Edwynn Houk Gallery, 200 W. Superior. Admission is free. Regular gallery hours are 10 to 5 Tuesday through Saturday. More info at 943-0698.
You can see some of the homoeroticism that Jesse Helms wants to ban with his seven-point amendment to the NEA at tonight's showing of Out of Bounds: A Lesbian Journey, a photo/slide show by lesbian photographer JEB (Joan E. Biren). The presentation combines music, archival and historical images, and personal photographs from Biren's own coming out in the 1960s. The show, part of Northwestern University's Lesbian and Gay Consciousness Month festivities, begins at 7 PM in the Louis Room of Norris Center, 1999 Sheridan Road in Evanston. It's free. Call 708-491-7360.